In episode 36 of Mission: Impact, Carol, her guest, Anne Hilb discuss:
Anne Hilb, MSOD is a community and culture architect, an expert at conflict resolution, and a champion of restorative and racial justice practices. As a community and culture architect, she partners with managers, executives, and front-line employees to repair conflict and restore trust so they can succeed and organizations can thrive. Her approach to this work is unique due to her blend of a decade of hands-on experience with more than a half-dozen degrees and certifications. Anne harnesses the power of circle and uses her deep listening skills to help build healthy workplaces. She develops deeply connected people and communities by leading with authenticity, transparency, curiosity, and care. Her work is centered around building confidence and accountability while mitigating blame, shame and guilt. When not repairing harm, working through conflict, and restoring trust, she can be found searching out the best taco, hosting circles, and spending time in nature.
Important Links and Resources:Transcript:
Carol Hamilton: My guest today on Mission Impact is Anne Hilb. Anne is a community and culture architect, an expert at conflict resolution, and a champion of restorative and racial justice practices. Anne and I talk about why so often people wait too long to deal with a conflict or have someone help out or mediate. Why a first step to resolving a conflict is to define what the conflict is actually about and whether the parties are in agreement about that and why organizational culture is dictated by the worst behavior we allow.
Mission Impact is the podcast for progressive nonprofit leaders who want to build a better world without becoming a martyr to the cause. I’m Carol Hamilton, your podcast host and nonprofit strategic planning consultant. On this podcast we explore how to make your organization more effective and innovative. We dig into how to build organizational cultures where your work in the world is aligned with how you work together as staff, board members and volunteers. All for this is for the purpose of creating greater mission impact.
Anne, welcome to the podcast. I like to start each conversation with the question of what drew you to the work that you do, what motivates you and what would you describe as your why?
Anne Hilb: Yeah, so, I was drawn into this work from a lot of different points of entry. I think my own experience of belonging or not belonging in probably more cases and wanting to promote healthy dialogue and use my skill set to create safe environments for folks is really my why. Because in a lot of ways I didn't feel like I saw that. And in a lot of ways, I also feel like or experience that rather. And in a lot of ways, I just feel like it's the best use of the gifts that I have from. Childhood and also from developing those through educational experiences, life experiences.
Carol: You often work with groups where there's a lot of conflict going on. Can, can you set the stage of what that might look like or a typical scenario that you might be walking into?
Anne: Sure. A couple of different sorts of groupings of those scenarios. And so conflict work is definitely my area of expertise, but I do, I do a lot of different work but in the conflict realm in particular, I'd say there's a couple of buckets, so it's usually. An incident, an incident of harm. Most often sexual harm I would say is what I get called into the oftentimes racial or sexual, but usually sexual harm these days. Two founders fighting or two or more founders fighting or senior, the senior level leaders and the mid level. Leaders fighting or having some big incident or just in general, poor culture or the senior level leaders or the leader not, not doing well with the rest of the organization. So again, those are sort of the three buckets. I'll give them a more specific one example. So Well, let's say that the founders are not doing well. And they call me in because they, for whatever reason, have reached a point of no return and they're deciding how we can continue? Right. Like, do we shut down? Do we buy each other out? It's just, it's no longer sustainable now it's affecting their home lives. It's really, really affecting their employees because they're screaming at each other. Or maybe they have decided to take a temporary close if they're a business that's a product business or like a restaurant or something. So they call me and depending upon the service, right? Because I offer different ones, they might need a mediation. They might need to come in and consult. They might even need to come in and do a circle for them. And so I'll come in and I'll work with them to work through what's going on.
Carol: For those mediations. What are some of the steps that you typically take to I don't know, bring the temperature down, I guess, between the two folks who are in
Anne: conflict. Yeah. So if it's a mediation, right, I'm going to do pre-work and talk to everyone first to find out what's going on the same way you would in any of the work that we do and find out. What success looks like ultimately, and really find out what the different perspectives are because one person might be thinking something's totally different than what the other person is, and they might be experiencing it totally differently. And also. What's really bothering one person might be completely different than the main thing that the other person wants to tackle is. And so one of the main things in conflict that's really important is to land on what the conflict is about. So, you can all be working on the same thing at the same time.
Carol: Yeah, it's interesting. I was on a board where we had a conflict between the two leaders of the staff leaders of the organization. It happened to also be a faith community where they went to mediation a number of times. And by the time climate got to us as the board, once we heard both sides of the story, if you will, it was almost. We couldn't find that common ground of figuring out the kernel or each person saw the situation so differently and described it so differently. It was hesitant, being in different countries, speaking different languages on different planets. It was, so it wasn't one where, where we ended up, the folks ended up staying ultimately over time. But one where we could find a good resolution. I felt like in that situation, we only have bad choices to make, but that was just interesting to just hear they are so far apart in terms of how they're seeing this situation. It was really hard to find that common ground.
Anne: Yeah, that's unfortunate. I think oftentimes folks wait and it's anything where we talk about preventative work, right? Like we, I mean, just last week I had a new computer installed. Right. And I'm thinking to myself, I'm talking to my tech person. I'm saying, this is really necessary. Like I, my computer works fine right now. And we're installing antivirus software on my new computer and I bought a new computer. Right. And I'm like, but this seems like a really expensive thing to invest in. And I know of course that I need to do that, but because I can't see it, it doesn't feel like it's necessary yet, but it, but I know that just because you can't see the embers of a fire that's burning in the wall. Doesn't mean that it's not possible to have a fire burning low and people wait until the flames are bursting through the wall to take care of it. And I think that's the issue sometimes with something like conflict is people wait until the whole building is on fire.
Carol: And another, another situation that you described or one where there is sexual harm, I'm assuming sexual harassment or racial harm. What steps would you take in entering an organization where that type of thing has been going on perhaps for a while, or perhaps it's part of the culture. Certainly we're seeing a lot of that in the news these days. But I'm curious how you approach it.
Anne: Yeah. Delicately definitely with Vanessa. Yeah, so I think I would say I approach every conversation and every client by asking a lot of questions. Right. So with sexual harm or racial harm but I'll start with sexual harm, I think Aye, try and find out more about the feelings and the facts more than anything, right? I mean, the facts are important and it's important to find out more about first, like what happened here and it's usually more about what's residual than it is about what happened in the first place. Because first and foremost, when I'm coming in, unfortunately it's usually after things have burned. Ideally folks would bring me in before that has happened to support a healthy culture. And unfortunately I usually get called in after the fact. So when that happens, I'm coming in and I'm Working usually with HR and the founders or the CEO. And typically when it's sexual harm, it happens to you more of the women in the workplace. And there has been someone who's caused harm. So we will. Group, group people into like, what assess, okay. What harm do you think has occurred and try and do some understanding of what's happening to those who feel that. They have been harmed. So oftentimes in organizations, there is a lack of understanding around sexism and toxic masculinity. So how do you group folks up so that they can speak in a way, the same way that when you do white cops, and caucuses for people of color and give them a safe space to talk about the culture of the organization. Right? Sometimes the harm has occurred in a different way where maybe the culture is such that it feels out of alignment, right? So conflict is a clash of ideas. And it's also to me when there's a lack of alignment, so. In organization development speed, right? A lack of alignment leads to difficulties, right? If there's misunderstanding or miscommunication, we know that something in the organization has gone amiss. And that means that we're saying that we have these values, we have these espoused values and we're not practicing those values in action. And that's going to lead to conflict because. We're saying one thing and we're doing another, were hanging up values on the wall and we're running around and living these other values or we're on zoom and we're, saying something or doing something that we can get away with because people don't know how to call us out on it in a virtual room, the same way that we can. We've with our physical bodies folks don't know, oh, I can leave this virtual space in the same way, because a lot of it is new. And so when that happens in a place where there's harm created with sexual violence, like let's say a leader. Creates an instance of sexual harassment and they're covered by the firm's lawyer. And now the leader leaves or gets pushed out. But the firm's lawyer is still there, which is why I've had this incident happen many times. And then there's all this animosity towards the lawyer because he's doing his job and also. Folks feel like, well, why are they still here once that all comes to light? So then you have this schism in what the firm says they stand for, especially if they're an organization that says it supports a women's issue. Right. So how do you then look at smoothing over the, the. Lack of alignment in a way that you haven't technically broken policy, but you have broken the, the values or the espoused values of the organization. So, that's an instance where you're going to have to work with folks in a way that gives them bullets. And those back to the foundation of what do we stand for? What's our mission and how do our policies, our processes and what we say we want to do line up. I don't know if that answered what you were asking.
Carol: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And I, I heard I'm not, I'm going to have to look up who it was that said this, because I, I heard this person at a conference, but they talked about how they saw things like sexual harassment as a, as a symptom of an unhealthy culture, rather than you know central. I don't know, it was just interesting to me. I don't know if, I don't want to put a bigger and lower thing, but it was interesting to me how they talked about it, as that's the worst manifestation or some of the worst manifestations of a really unhealthy culture, but what's underneath it. Is that, that culture, I'm curious to know your perspectives on that.
Anne: Yeah, I. I think it's an and also I think that culture is dictated by the worst behavior we allow. So, when we see one person, I heard on a podcast, the analogy of this, that in society, when we allow someone to litter, right? Like. And we don't call it in, then all of a sudden society becomes full of trash, right? Like it's very quick. I mean, like I leave a piece of trash in my car one day. This happens to me all the time. Right. If I take my piece of trash with me when I leave my vehicle, Then I'm pretty good about continuing that behavior. But as soon as I leave a water bottle, after I go golfing in my car, you can be sure that I have five water bottles in my car. Right. So very quickly that that behavior continues. And so as soon as we allow any pad behavior to occur, Then many bad behaviors accrue. And as soon as we disallow bad behavior and we say, no, that we don't have that here. Others are witness to that. And they realize, oh, we don't allow that here. Right. And so I really think with your question about sexual harassment, right? Like if you nip it in the bud, then. People know what the expectation is. And I think that there's a lot of debates about hiring for culture and all these things. And sexual harassment is one that's probably, and sexual harm is probably one that's very complex and nuanced to get into because. A person who will do something like that. There's a lot of complexities with that person. And we could get into all of those things. And at the same time, the cultural component of that is as soon as something that's inappropriate happens, it's absolutely imperative to. Say we do not allow that here. There's not going to be tolerance for that. That being said, there's a very big component of how we handle harm in this culture? Right? So condemning the deed and not the person and separating those, separating those things out. And The way that you handle a bad act versus a bad actor is also going to be something that's important and says a lot about your culture.
Carol: Yeah. And when someone's caused harm, one of the things that folks want often as an apology and we've seen again, I think in the news instances of really poor apology is what would you say goes into making a good apology that could actually move towards some resolution?
Anne: That's a great question. I think a good apology has three parts. A good apology says, I'm sorry. I take responsibility for that and here's what I'm going to do going forward. And here's what I essentially like learned from it and how I'm gonna use this as a learning example. Most people tend to miss it. One part of the apology or when they say, I'm sorry, there's lots of different ways to say, I'm sorry. Like I'm sorry. You feel that way is putting the responsibility back on the person or, I'm sorry, but, or I'm sorry. And here's what's happening, like, and trying to excuse the behavior of the defendant, you know. I won't go on. I'll just answer your question.
Carol: Yeah. I love it. Cause I think, yeah, any, any one of those missing and it's so easy, right? You can be in a conversation. When you are trying to say, you're sorry, did you actually see those for like going forward backtracking? But yeah, so I'm sorry. Plus the plus the taking responsibility, but I appreciate the third one, which is, what am I learned about it and what, how will I do things differently? Moving forward based on that.
Anne: Yeah. And that is, I will say from experience, incredibly hard to do. Don't feel as much remorse in the moment as you might want to. Like, I apologize this week I was on vacation with my family. I apologize to my sister or something. And it was incredibly hard for me to do that part when I didn't feel some frustration towards my sister at that moment. Because I didn't want to say that part. Right then. And so there's a lot of timing involved and apologies, I would say as well. And in a workplace scenario sometimes if you are, if there's pressure on you to apologize because of the HR aspect or the public relations aspect or whatever's going on. You can really make things worse. If the person is put under duress to a pod,
Carol: And it's interesting. I'm thinking of the timing and it takes a little bit, a little bit of time and reflection to know what you've learned and how you might act differently in the future. And so, you might manage to get the first part of the apology out and half of the second part, in a first go, and then it might take a little while to come back and be able to do it. Do the full thing and let me do, let me do sorry. Take it to try again. Yeah.
Anne: A circle once with, with young children, like kindergarten age and the parent and bought one of the parents involved with trying to force me to have one of the children apologize. And I said, I'm not going to force an apology because an apology, if it's not genuine, means nothing. And young people are often forced to apologize, and that is something that. Is ingrained in us as adults that, oh, well, apologize to your sister. And so an apology then comes to mean very little to us as we age as, as do many things that are rote. So. We say a lot of things and we lose their meaning, like, think about when you bump into someone in the grocery store. Oh, I'm sorry. Right. And so many of these things that are meant to have a great bit of meaning lose their meaning when we do them out of learned behavior.
Carol: Yeah. And one, one thing you, I wanted to follow up on that you talked about before was the instance of, well, maybe the incident didn't quite cross the line in terms of a policy, but there's still a ripple effect in terms of lack of trust or, or diminished trust or how people are working with each other. How, how, how, what are some steps to, to deal with those ripple effects?
Anne: Yeah. I would say, clarifying the role, I think is always a good first step in a lot of these interventions. Right. And helping folks understand. What everyone's role in the organization is to play. Sometimes people aren't going to like that. And it's important to acknowledge that individuals can hold their own feelings and those are important. And also that conflicting feelings can hold without creating a conflict. That presents a fight. So a conflict and a fight are different. And it doesn't need to rise to the level of tension that it did the first time, every time. Then I might say that, when you bring in someone who does what I do, they can help you to understand that not everyone is privy to information every time, while at the same time sharing information is helpful. And the more information you share the better while at the same time, that information is not Always going to be going to mean that everything is an open book for everyone, right? There are different ways to be transparent as leaders. And I think leaders think because something's confidential, that means they can't share information. So I think there are ways to say this is what's going on without sharing the details of it also. So you can say. We are doing X, Y, and Z, and not saying the specifics of X, Y, and Z, and then the employees that are not getting the specific details need to also understand that what was shared is enough and the building of trust can happen in better ways by sharing information transparently. But the expectation of transparency also needs to shift. And I think that those are the nuances of shifting culture that happens slowly and also break down that distrust that happens when something like sexual violence in a, in a community does occur.
Carol: I feel like transparency is one of those big words, like communication. Well, if we could just solve our communication issues, if we could just be transparent, everything would be fine. But yeah, I think, and I do think that people see it in an all or nothing context. So it's interesting that you're saying it's more of a continuum.
Anne: Yeah, absolutely. And I do think that that. Need better language around breaking down what their expectations are and the way to ask her what they need and the way to offer it. And when I say asking for what you need, I'm also aware of that. Those who would be doing the asking have much less power in the organization. So, the folks with formal power and titles need to really understand the power over that they have and, and take ownership over that. The understanding of that power, because I think oftentimes we are a manager or in the C-suite, or even just have informal, formal power or hurt in that we are positioned to take power in a manager position purely because of the type of role that we have, because it's a more formal desk job and it can roll into a manager position or because we have Privilege. And we tend not to recognize that. And so working on that, understanding in an organization or just as an individual is really important in order for these shifts to happen.
Carol: And you mentioned that there's a distinction on that. Between fighting and conflict. And for me, I probably use those words interchangeably. How do you see those as different?
Anne: So, like I said, I think conflict is to me, a clash of ideas or lack of alignment. So I see conflict as neutral. When I teach a course on conflict, I will say conflict can be positive, negative, or neutral, right? Like it, I can have a conversation with you where we're in conflict because we. Both are trying to decide where to go to dinner and you want Italian and I want Chinese and we're in conflict, but we're not fighting. And so when we're fighting about it, we're at odds in a way that we're really expending energy, that now we're in a duel, so to speak. And so you want Italian and I want Chinese. Maybe we leave one another angry and you go to Italian alone and I go to Chinese alone and we don't talk to each other for three days. Right. So we are at odds in a way that puts us in a really bad way with one another, as opposed to in the right relationship.
Carol: So it's a question of the intensity and emotions getting caught up in it. And, and I guess in that instance, each person digging in and then somehow taking personal offense and not wanting to speak to the other person over their dinner choices.
Anne: Yeah. And, and, and these aren't like terms that I've looked up in conflict management that I, this is just the way I'm calling it for this conversation. I'd have to go look at, I mean, maybe I know the conflict piece is definitely a neutral pot. conflict is not inherently a negative thing. Haven't looked up the word fight, like I'm, I'm relatively positive. This works
Carol: I mean, it's interesting though. Cause I think you, most people, when they hear the word conflict will assume that it's inherently negative.
Anne: Oh yeah, definitely. And that's the first thing you'll learn in any conflict workshop, every single person who teaches the work will write conflict on the board and say, what does the word conflict mean to you? And you'll hear everyone say all these negative words or draw pictures of dust clouds or fists. And that's like the first teaching of conflict that you'll likely learn in any course.
Carol: Yeah. And I think in our culture and the us in the dominant white culture yeah, we tend to be very conflict averse and tend to be afraid of all of those, all of those pictures that you just mentioned. Certainly doesn't mean the conflict doesn't happen, but with that tendency, how does conflict then show up?
Anne: Yeah. Conflict. Can be creepy and that it creeps in, right. I have a workshop called conflict creeps and to your point, it shows up in very passive, aggressive ways oftentimes. And I think. We often hear the expression elephant in the room because the expectations are not clear. Right. So I talked about lack of alignment. I think that that shows up a lot here. And, I would say that folks are often not seeing the covert ways that conflict shows up. They only see the overt ways that conflict shows up. So if it's not spelled out for them to your point, like in a fight, they think that everything is okay. And that's one of the reasons why I think that right now is such a moment because. I do believe that most people think conflict intentions are so high because they think particularly white, white folks are thinking that the workplace feels and the world or the U.S. I'm talking about the U.S. right now. Their world, I should say, feels like an unsafe place to them because everything is a quote unquote fight. And actually, I think there's a huge opportunity here because if they get it right and have constructive dialogue in a really open way, I think it can actually lead to less harm and less conflict then we were having before. I just think that way people were missing it because it was going on in a lot of ways, without their knowledge.
Carol: Yeah. So underneath the surface and covert or those embers in the wall, as you talked about before. So at the end of each episode, I'd like to ask a question where I ask a random icebreaker question. And so what is one family tradition that you would like to carry on to the future?
Anne: Hm, interesting. I think the first thing that comes to mind for whatever reason is that. My parents gave us contracts when we learned to drive like legit contracts, driving contracts made up by a lawyer that we had to sign. That had like 10 things on them. I have it framed behind me. And we had to know how serious something like this was. And I mean, my parents did a lot of weird things and I would like to carry that on for my kids so that they know the seriousness of. Big things. I mean, they did a lot of mile markers, things like that, but I just always thought that was really cool that they took that so seriously and imparted that on us. That, and I just remember the line that said, driving is a. Privilege and, and a responsibility and not a right. And if any of the following are not followed, then this privilege will be revoked.
Carol: Awesome. That's certainly getting really clear about expectations and communicating them very directly. I did some contracts with my daughter at various points along the way. She would remember better than I exactly what they were about. But we have, we did sign them. There were no lawyers involved.
Anne: We had friends that were lawyers.
Carol: I think getting things down on paper and having it clear can really really help lawyers get a bad rap, but in that way of just making it all clear what, what each party is expecting and is really important. Well what are you excited about what's coming up next for you and what's emerging in the work that you're doing.
Anne: Yeah. I'm really looking forward to a community that. I'm advertising for right now. There are some amazing women signing up called the confidence community. This particular one is for white women utilizing DEI in their work. And If you're interested, people are registering. Now, it's going to be amazing. I've been utilizing circle practices in my work for a long time. So really, really looking forward to sharing that with more women identifying folks and I'm Baltimore. I live in Baltimore city and we are working to be the first Equitech city. And There is an amazing entrepreneur community tech community in Baltimore. And they have This incredible group of folks building out this Equitech space. And Techstars is like the BC engine behind it right now. And I'm just really, really excited to be a part of what's happening with that work.
Carol: And can you define that term?
Anne: Aquatech? So the idea is that it's equity meets technology and they're working to put equity at the center of the tech work in Baltimore. So that rather than just doing diversity, equity and inclusion in technology work in Baltimore, they are trying to make it the first. Like a full equity city. And they're trying to be really thoughtful about how they are disrupting that and how they are thinking about the entrepreneurs that are already here. Baltimore is a huge hub because of Hopkins in the biotech sphere. The same way that Silicon valley is for chips. So. Really looking at how they can draw folks here as there's a new opportunity in the tech space because of everything that's been disrupted because of COVID and everyone moving around again. And it's just a really exciting time to see where folks are gonna land.
Carol: Well, thank you so much. It was great having you on.
Anne: Thank you. Great to see you.
Carol: I appreciated how Anne described the impact of an instance of sexual or racial harm – and even when technically a policy or the law has not been broken the trust within the team has been broken. There still is a ripple effect in the organization. Morale is impacted and trust needs to be repaired. As part of this I thought it was interesting how she described the residual feelings about those who were involved with managing the issue – whether it is the lawyer or HR professional or other organizational leaders. While the offender may be gone, trust in those who remain is likely much lower than before and it going to take a process of healing to move through the remaining feelings about what happened. I was struck by Anne’s comment that culture is dictated by the worst behavior we allow. What behavior are you allowing to slide in your organization that may be eroding the trust within your team and your organizational culture?
Thank you for listening to this episode. I really appreciate the time you spend with me and my guests. You can find out how to connect with Anne as well as any links and resources mentioned during the show in the show notes at missionimpactpodcast.com/shownotes. I want to thank Nora Strauss-Riggs for her support in editing and production as well as April Koester of 100 Ninjas for her production support. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it on your favorite social media platform and tag us. We appreciate you helping us get the word out. Thanks again for listening.
In episode 35 of Mission: Impact, Carol, her cohost, Peter Cruz, and their guest, Nathaniel Benjamin discuss diversity, equity and inclusion and its intersection with human capital management. This episode is a release of a podcast Carol planned to start with her son-in-law and has many transferrable ideas and concepts to the nonprofit sector. We talk about:
Nathaniel Benjamin approaches the space of Diversity and Inclusion as not only a profession, but as a passion that’s taken hold of his life’s work. As a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, University of Baltimore and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, his educational endeavors led him into a marketable career in Human Resources -- working in the C-suite level --managing workforce planning, strategy, policy and talent management. But to “really” understand how an organization works, he later found that you must understand its people… the diversity of those who make an organization thrive. He brings 17 years of experience as an organizational Change Agent and a D&I Strategist, ready to exceed your organizational needs.
Nathaniel Benjamin:Peter J. Cruz:
Carol Hamilton: Today’s episode of Mission Impact is a little different. As with episode 33 where I had on Stephen Graves and Peter Cruz – this is another of the series of interviews I did with Peter on diversity equity and inclusion. I worked on a short project with my son in law Peter Cruz and New family obligations in the form of his son, my grandson and new career directions meant that we just did 5 interviews and 5 episodes. I am going to feature those episodes on my podcast feed. While each of the people that we talk to in this series do not necessarily focus on the nonprofit sector, there is a lot to learn from each conversation. Today Peter and I talk to Nathaniel Benjamin. Nathaniel is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, University of Baltimore and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, His career has been in Human Resources -- working in the C-suite level --managing workforce planning, strategy, policy and talent management. With a special focus on diversity equity and inclusion
Mission Impact is the podcast for progressive nonprofit leaders who want to build a better world without becoming a martyr to the cause. I’m Carol Hamilton, your podcast host and nonprofit strategic planning consultant.
Peter Cruz: So this week we have Nate Benjamin. How are you doing Nate? I am. Well, how are you, Peter?
Nathaniel Benjamin: I'm doing well. I'm doing really well. I'm halfway there halfway to feeling very well.
Peter: So for our audience, could you introduce yourself and your professional background?
Nathaniel: Absolutely. So I'm Nate Benjamin. I am, I have been in the industry for about 17 years. worked in the space of human capital as well as inclusion, equity, and diversity. I do small projects with my business Benjamin and associates consulting group. But from a full-time perspective, I am a senior executive for a federal agency.
Peter: The industry that you're talking about is diversity equity inclusion, right. And hence your presence here. I think one, the first question that we want to start off with is, So I've been recently unemployed, due to budgetary cuts as a result of COVID and have been trying to make the switch over to becoming a diversity equity, inclusion professional, and having that be like my main function. but in my search, I found that these roles exist in different departments, whether in the for-profit space, government space or nonprofit space, but mostly they require some human resource experience. So, from your perspective, do you think that DEI strategies and their rollout and that whole part of their infancy belongs or should be responsible for human resources are probably living in different departments.
Nathaniel: Yeah, that's a good question. So I think part of it is, I do think it depends on your organization, right? So, I do think that based on organization, there are times where it should be aligned with your human capital or human resources program, but then depending on the organization, maybe things that are going on, culture as well, there are times where I think that DEI should be aligned directly direct report to your, to your senior leaders, to your CEO or your, your team operating officer, if you will. So I do think that they belong somewhere together. We'll tell you where I don't think it belongs if I can go there. Against it being within the equal employment opportunity space because this organization that is focused, oftentimes in EEO is, is a needed function, but it's very compliance for, and I am very, this is a part of the organization its culture, it's what we're supposed to be doing. And so it impacts your human capital. So you have to be able to take it out of a compliance exercise and put it in a place where it can stand on. and if it's within human capital, it should still be a function that's supporting your overall human capital strategy because diversity is about your people. And it's about the experiences that these people leverage. So for me, if I were to create the perfect organization, your human capital in terms of your processes, then you look at culture, you look at engagement and belonging, and then you look at diversity. And all of those areas together to me is the, the, the strongest framework to create a human capital, centric culture.
Peter: That makes a lot of sense. I think from some of my personal experiences that the human resources staff at an organization is very minimal. and they are responsible for a multitude of different things and to add on diversity equity inclusion on top of that just doesn't seem to work at all. So in, in like, yeah, going backtracking, Is it more of a development and training type of function that they should live just so it promotes that internal exercises and then builds those internal muscles that we should have?
Nathaniel: So, I think there needs to be partnership with your learning and development group. It should live there at all. generally I always look at learning and development as a part still as a subset. I mean, And then if you diversity and inclusion under learning and development, you are devaluing the actual program because you're saying that it belongs under two layers under your human capital strategy. So me, I would want to see either diversity and inclusion equal to your human capital or infused into your human. But to put it lower in the organization, it sets a tone, even if that's not beaten. And then going back to something you said in terms of the human resources, generally being understaffed, which is a common theme across the industry. But if an organization is committed to diversity and inclusion, then they have to be able to. Find the resources, the best support, because DEI should not be an ad hoc responsibility. It should be of your organization. And so when you have your, whatever, your mission is, your human capital strategy is going to align to your overall organization. A DEI is missing from that. Then you're missing the opportunity to hit the mark when it comes to whatever your mission is focused it's as well. So we can't put it in like a backroom activity. It needs to be on the forefront and it needs to have the exposure.
Carol: Yeah. In terms of. To really have it infused throughout the organization, not just throughout the human capital strategy really is talking about, in, in most cases I would guess, some sort of culture change and, and that, that's a, that's a huge endeavor. I was listening to another podcast where the person talked about, I'm always listening to Brene Brown's podcasts. So it was probably one of hers. And, she was saying the, how, if, if they're going into an organization and working with an organization, if DEI is not infused, and if the HR folks are not on the leadership team, they're not working with the organization because that structure alone just shows how it's either valued or not.
Nathaniel: Correct. And, and even adding into the human capital stress. Diversity and inclusion needs to be a part of every segment that you have in human capital, bouncy your management. if you break out the layers of human capital, you have things that are dealing with your executive space, your culture, engagement and belonging. You have your performance management, your employee relations, or labor relations, all of these subsets of HR. And you have to use the DEI in that. So. You have supervisors who don't necessarily know how to manage a diverse workforce, right? So how are you holding them accountable, but then how are you also giving them the tools to be successful? So just that sentence alone, you talk, we've talked about diversity and inclusion, learning and development and performance management all in the same breath. So if you start with diversity and inclusion and separate from human capital things are disconnected.
Peter: Yeah. And I think speaking for myself and I probably Carol as well, like being, an entry level brown man and really experienced about when you have. People who don't share your perspective or from a different generation or from a different workforce generation, or you could say, just have a difficult time connecting and, and not really, I guess, being so open with feedback in general, which and I think we'll talk about this in a future episode, but forces you to assimilate in different ways that. Would be a detriment, not only to your career, but also to their progress and furthering themselves and trying to become a better leader or et cetera, et cetera, whatever they're looking for. the question, my next question, cause it seems like we're, we're leaning towards that now. For organizations or for-profits that may be starting this work and a response to 2020 in general. and the previous administration, they're starting to establish DEI, an entity at their organization where it's going to live. And I think that's, we touched on that already, but we're not to put it, whether where, what are some signs. that you would recommend or not signs that you would share that, they are on the right path, that the work that they're starting out to do seems to be working. and what are some things that they would probably want to avoid, when beginning this work?
Nathaniel: Yeah. So, good question. I think it still goes back to the culture of the organization and I think a way to be able to know where you're going and your progress is to incorporate your feedback mechanisms. Right? So what are ways that you are assessing your org? Because what works for organization A might not work for B, but you have to put, to truly do some type of feedback mechanisms and assessments. And so for instance, there are activities that people use that I've used such as stay interviews, right? Stay interviews are a great way to know what's going on in the pulse of your organization and ensure that questions that you have within your stay interview. Are aligned with the segments of, either areas that you want to see growth in or areas that you have concern. And so if you have a view that has 10 questions, how are those questions linked back within your organizational strategy, right? Looking back into your organization. So if you're looking to see, how, how competitive are we with pay? You want to ask questions that are compensation. If you're looking for clues and questions, then you want to make sure that you're asking questions that can best measure, the, the, the inclusion response of those within your org as well. So I think stay interviews are a great way. They're, they're super easy. And they also show that you as an organization have a commitment to your human cap. And you're not asking the questions when people are walking out the door, hear about you now, and I want to see your success. And so give us feedback to tell us what we can then do.
Carol: Go ahead. I think people are very familiar with the exit interview. Can you say a little bit more about what the stay interview is?
Nathaniel: So the stay interview, it's really a pulse check and you can decide at what point you want to have it. So for instance, if you want to do a stay interview at six months, you joined the organization in January and now it's June. I want to do a pulse check with you to see how things are going. And then I want to be able to assess this data based on this information. And that information is what you're seeking. Now what you also have to do, which is extremely important, is not just to do the state interviews, but what are you going to do with the data? Right? Because if people don't trust that anything will be done, then they're not going to be receptive in providing the feedback. So it's going to be able to say, this is the information that we've captured over X amount of time. And so from this amount of time, this is information that you've told them. We've heard you, these are actions that we put into place as a result of what you said and what that does is it fosters, it fosters buy-in and more people will be prone to be responsive because people know that their words help result in changing or at least shifting organizational [culture]. But human capital space if you lose someone, right? If you're losing your employees the amount of time to be able to backfill the position with a fuse, then with the amount of time that it takes to train someone up to the proficiency level of the person that was in the organization before that's. Right. So you can look at what those dollars and what those costs are, and that can range from anywhere from 30 to 60%. And so if an organization wants to be able to best keep their knowledge management within the organization and to be a talent, then the best way to be able to do this is to be able to, leverage your people, keep your retention low and be able to foster an organization that is inclusive. And here's the needs of the organization.
Peter: And this is different from a three month probationary period where your supervisor just brings you in just to see how, whether or not you're sufficiently getting used to everything. It's really getting a deeper knowledge and understanding of that. It's like a, it's like a reverse evaluation of the 360 evaluation at that point. Right. It's like how they are looking back at you if I'm not mistaken, right?
Nathaniel: Yeah. That's a little bit of. looking at it from, from the organization. So it's more macro than mine. And so from a 360, you're looking at it where, what is the feedback from my peers? What's the feedback from, my, my boss and maybe what's the feedback of someone that's one level below. This is looking at the organization in March. And so if this is Peter Cruz enterprises, how does Peter Cruz enterprises? Because there might be 10 different offices or sub organizations, but how does the organization work? And so you're not just doing this bay interview just for your boss and for your staff. You're doing it in, you're trying to measure this across the organization. What also happens with. Is that you're able to then get the data so that you can do comparison breakouts as well. And so for instance, if you have 10 organizations and nine of those organizations have, let's say, let's stay interviews because the attrition is low and then you have one office where the state interviews, we're doing more of them because there's a revolving door. And then we're getting data that shows that these are some of the same issues that we are reporting. Every time someone comes in the door, we now may be able to use the data. Well, we will be able to use the identity, the data to identify things in particular problems that may exist. There may be, it may not be the result of a supervisor. It may be. It may be, we're not really using the smart use of technology. There may be different reasons why people are staying or going, but you're taking the time out on the front end to diagnose what issues you have so that you're treating the disease. And not this.
Peter: So well, first I want to say like, now I need to get a Squarespace or something for Peter Cruz enterprise and before someone else takes that. How regularly should these types of stay interviews?
Nathaniel: So I'm going to go back to the, it depends because you really want to look at organization, right? If you have a turnover of, the average FTE stays within the organization for 18 months and you probably want to do it sooner. Yeah. If you have an organization where the normal turn is five years, maybe you don't want to do it in the first three months. But I would say that that's where human capital and diversity inclusion have to come together because you have to look at the data from the human capital systems perspective to understand like, okay, attrition is telling me this, right? So that's the human capital folks. Now as a diversity expert, what is this data system? And so now that I have this data and it's suggesting perhaps. When we look at our state interviews that this demographic is unhappy in XYZ and the third, well, why are they unhappy with XYZ third? So at that point, the next step may be okay. I'm seeing that this demographic is experiencing these challenges and is likely to look for a new job within the next six to 12 months. So maybe I then do a deeper dive and focus. And that focus group comprises everyone because we're inclusive. But in that focus group, let's kinda like to hear a little bit more and maybe it's bringing in that third party or that outside facilitator where people will be more candid and open and not have the feelings of, there's any type of retribution should they say? And then that information is then taken and synthesized and then leaders can now say, okay, I have, it's not just anecdotal. I have this information that shares that this is what's going on within my organization. So as your diversity leader, how are you now championing your senior leaders to invoke change? And then that helps you drive your strategy. So that's why going back to what I said before, human capital and diversity have to be. Because there's so much overlap. Can't do it by itself. We can't use diversity as a way where, okay, we're coming up with programs that we're coming up with ideas, but what is your strategy? Because if you don't have the connection to your human capital programs, then you're doing activities for the sake of doing activities without ensuring that there is a clear strategy for your organization.
Peter: And this probably echoes why this type of work should not exist within the compliance driven role, because it requires so much flexibility.
Nathaniel: Correct. And I will tell you, I have lots of friends that have it in their compliance role and, and, and I appreciate it, but if you're asking me for my opinion. I think that that's the wrong place I think is wrong. Is the graveyard for organizations.
Peter: I think we have just one more question. Carol, do you have anything to add?
Carol: No. I mean, I think it's, my experience has been with much smaller organizations, so HR, if there's even an HR person, unfortunately they've been, up to their eyeballs with just the compliance stuff. So, any looking at culture has had to be in a whole organization thing, just because the numbers are so much smaller than I think what you're talking about. but really moving over time it could be that the wording changes around calling it human capital or calling it human resources. Since that in many ways, objectifies people, it makes them objects just like machines and software and all the other things, rather than who they are people and what we want as a healthy culture in an organization. So it'll be interesting to see how those things shift over the next couple of [years].
Nathaniel: Yeah, I agree. If I've seen titles now shifting to more like chief people, officers, and I just think that. I mean, it's snazzy, a little cool if you will, but it's really encompassing what we do in this space. Like everything is about the people and if we don't have the people, you don't have your mission and you're not going to get your bottom line. So, I agree with you. I think that, and, and in an ideal world, I love titles. When I see chief people, engagement, inclusion, belonging. Those are the things that we really are assigned to do. Not necessarily look at, transactional, just resources and capital, because again, you objectify people to just being, a bottom line.
Carol: Yeah. And it probably feels maybe, I don't know, hip or whatever right now, but I'm, I'm my, my hope is that, over time it will just become.
Peter: speaking of overtime and becoming normal. The last question I have is ingrained with educational non-profits and educational institutions. what have, being that we've seen. And have become more and more increasingly aware of how COVID specifically has impacted disproportionally neighborhoods of color, public schools of color or predominantly. And what do you see from your experience and from your expertise may be long lasting effects from COVID in regards to facilitation and, and delivery of, lessons, et cetera. we'll start there.
Nathaniel: Yeah, it's scary. It's scary. my concern and I see it and, I have, I have children as well, and they're going through the pandemic and, interestingly enough, my, my wife was able to start working and she became a full term, homeschooling, parents last year. And so I sit in education, I sit in a seat of privilege, right? We were educated, we could give up one income and be fine, and our children are thriving, but that's one story out of probably a hundred where we're watching particularly, particularly black and brown people who have to not only still work during the pandemic, but are working with. And so when they're working on site, many of their kids are sitting home and they're left to their own devices. It doesn't matter how good their kids are, they're left to their own devices. And so when you look at the one, the lack of resources within black and brown, And then two, when you look at the absenteeism that's occurring, because parents are at work and children have to stay at home. The long-term effects of this is going to be crucial because one who's going to fail children during a pandemic. No one. So you're going to have children that are past the long, and that are going through the system that are inadequately equipped. And so what then happens. You create a pipeline of children that are missing the functional and technical skills that they need in order to succeed. And so then what happens when we get to the 11th and 12th grade SATs COVID is behind us, but the educational gaps are not. And so then you have people. Are ill prepared to go to college might, may not go to college. families are disproportionately impacted. They may not be able to afford college. and then when they get in college, you're systematically taking on some of those challenges. And so what ends up happening is you create a gap really between the haves and have nots. But those that are mostly impacted are those that are on the lower end of the financial total. And unfortunately we see that black and brown people are more represented in that space. So it's not whether or not they can. A pandemic has completely stretched the uneven playing field that already existed. And so what then happened? 10 years from now, 15 years from now, we look at the workforce and do we see people who are more diverse in equal playing fields? Or do we see that there are less people who had less opportunities during this time? So, I say that, all that, to say that I'm nervous. I am, I've seen it before the pandemic. I worked for an organization where we had, and I'll give you this quick example. We had an unpaid internship. And it was a very reputable organization, but most people that were black and brown did not come into the organization. Not because they weren't qualified. Well, it was because who is going to be able to give up for four months of their summer, not making any money only for an experience in Washington, DC where rent and everything else is, above the national average. So there was this ration of who got the opportunities at that point, who got the connections, who could be able to bridge into opportunities once they graduate versus those that couldn't. So now you couple COVID on top of that. You couple that, black and brown people will be disproportionately impacted by that. And you see a system that is not. If you see a system that's so there are organizations that are trying to mitigate that. Of course people are coming up with businesses, of course, where there's more, educational, tutoring and things like that. But like, when we go back to that, who's going to then be able to pay for it?
Carol: Yeah, the ripple effects as you lay them out. I mean, it's just, it could be, and obviously those gaps and impacts were happening before the pandemic. And of course it's just, it just made it so much worse. and yeah, we'll be, we'll be seeing the ripple effects and, and unfortunately, The U S is not very good at history. We're very good at forgetting real quickly, what happened.
Peter: Yeah, because the second part of that question was like, if there are any positive things that have come from it, like, what do you think will like, we'll. moving forward, like, well, being, accessibility is important. Like maybe remote learning, like blended models still exist in 2024, like who? but being that, like what Carol just said, we don't tend to forget about the immediate CMI go back to normal. Cause that's always like what we're seeking. but normal, as you mentioned, wasn't great to begin with.
Nathaniel: Even with the hybrid learning and the different forms of doing that. there may be educational advances that occur, but there's still the, it's the ripple effect. So with the future of work and the future of education, things may be more digital, but then what happens to the businesses that thrive on those, either schools or anything else that is close to that location. I mean, we look at DC right now, DC is half of DC's. And why is it boarded up? Because small businesses especially can't make any money because everyone is in the future of work, if you will. And so then what happens to school? The same exact thing, and who's impacted if you have less schools because you have a virtual model, you have those, the cafeteria workers and the janitors and all of those different people who now they don't have a job or a place to clean because you shut down buildings and impacts your real estate as well. So, I could go on and on and on about it, but it impacts everyone, but we've got to look at the data to see who. Even the greatest impact, and we know what the data is going to show.
Carol: Well, that, that is all true. And we try to, we try to end on a positive note. So I'm curious what, what, you're, what you're looking forward to, what you're, what you're hopeful about, as we move forward in this next year.
Nathaniel: Yeah. So I'm going to flip it because I do actually like to be half-full. I am excited about the future. I am excited about the smart use of technology. I think technology is going to do something for this, for this world in, in, in something that we have never seen. the fact that we can have this podcast and we're doing an interview at 11 o'clock and I have a briefing at 12 o'clock and I have a meeting with clients at one o'clock and I'm able to do all of this, literally from my home. I mean, before. We're literally driving from or flying from or going all of these places and really extending and burning ourselves out. Right. So I think that organizations have the opportunity to, if you seize the smart use of technology in the correct way, and you also are focusing on the culture and the health of your organization. I do think that there are going to be extremely positive, ramifications and impacts from. I'm excited. I'm absolutely excited.
Peter: That's what I mean. I am as well. I mean, if it seems like it's a great time to progress and the cause there's like, I think with a lot of change, that's been instilled over the past couple of months and there's sort of like a whole, like everyone's optimistic at this point, right? We've just been so severely impacted from last year that it's hard to be a pessimist at this point. you just got it just to motivate you. You have to be optimistic. I think that's it for today. So thank you so much, Nate, for joining us. like you mentioned being in a couple of minutes, we are not as important, but thank you so much for taking the time out of your schedule, to speak with us and share your perspective and your insight.
Nathaniel: Thank you. This was a pleasure. I appreciate you so much.
Carol: Thank you for listening to this episode. I really appreciate the time you spend with me and my guests. You can find out how to connect with our guest Nathaniel Benjamin as well as my co-host for this episode Peter Cruz as well as any links and resources mentioned during the show in the show notes at missionimpactpodcast.com/shownotes. I want to thank Nora Strauss-Riggs for her support in editing and production as well as April Koester of 100 Ninjas for her production support. We want to hear from you! Take a minute to give us feedback or ask a question at missionimpactpodcast.com/feedback.
In episode 34 of Mission: Impact, Carol, her guest, Doug Spencer talked about:
Douglas Spencer is president of Spencer Brenneman, LLC, which helps mission-driven organizations reframe their focus and remaster their messages to thrive in any environment. In 2021, Douglas launched the podcast, Messaging on a Mission. In it he talks to leaders of nonprofits, social enterprises, associations about their journeys and the messages they’re using to thrive. He is also the author of Do They Care? The one question all brands should ask themselves, continually, a book that shows leaders how they can create meaningful connections with everyone important to their organization's success.
Carol Hamilton: My guest today on Mission Impact is Doug Spencer. Doug and I talk messaging for nonprofits. Why it is so much more than branding and branding is so much more than just a logo, and why it is so important to help everyone in your nonprofit get on board with a clear message that everyone can understand. Welcome to Mission Impact, the podcast for progressive nonprofit leaders who want to build a better world without becoming a martyr to the cause. I am Carol Hamilton, your podcast host and nonprofit strategic planning consultant.
Welcome Doug. It's great to have you on the pod.
Doug Spencer: I am thrilled to be here. Thank you for having me.
Carol: So I like to start with asking the question of what drew you to the work that you do. What, what motivates you and what would you describe as your why?
Doug: Yeah. Okay. Well, let's see. It's convoluted. It's not as easy as, oh, I woke up one morning when I was a child and I knew that I had to do A, B or C. So, I will start there. My parents were volunteers, they just volunteered at different organizations. And so they set a really good example for me, that way. And, I did that throughout high school and college. And after that, I've always been a volunteer, at least in organizations that I cared about. I did work in nonprofits for awhile, but then I got sucked into the for-profit sector and worked there for many years and, but continue to continue to volunteer. I served on the board of directors of a hundred million dollar health center. And, even was its board chair for a while. So I continued doing that, but after a while I left my corporate job, I started working on my own, doing branding. And, really it was last year in the heart of the pandemic where I took a step back and thought. All right. What am I doing? What I really want to do. And it was then that we made a shift to focus exclusively on mission driven organizations. So mostly not-for-profits, but also, social enterprises, the organizations that are trying to. Solve some sort of societal challenge, and, and, and are focused on doing that. There's the environment. There's education there's it's there, there's some really great folks doing some great work in pretty much all, all areas. And so, yeah, that's why I've shifted to mission-driven organizations. There's a lot of things I can't do, but, such as I can't, take care of kids who have been abused. I can't work in biotech. I can't do a lot of things, but I can help them. I can help the people who do. I can help them talk about their work and get their message out there so that more people join them on their mission.
Carol: It doesn't, it doesn't do anyone any good if, it's it's, the organization is hidden and no one knows the good work that they're doing. It's interesting. I'm thinking about my career and I've been in the sector for most of my career and, if you had talked to an organization about branding, when I first started, it was a dirty word. Branding, marketing, all of those things, were, oh, that's what, that's what those for-profit people do. I think that's changed a lot in the number of years that I've been in the sector. but still, it can be. Somewhat neglected or siloed and the fundraising arm or the marketing arm, the communications arm of the organization. Why would you say that it's really important for organizations to get, get those messages, get, get those messages is really integrated through the whole organization.
Doug: Sure. Well, there's many reasons for that. one of which is consistency in order for any message to take hold. And when I think of branding, by the way, I really think of strategic messaging. People sometimes think of a logo when they think branding, but that's just one tiny element of it. So it's really about how you think about your organization, how you think about the relationships you have with all the people. All the people most important to your success. And then how do you talk to them? And when I say all the people important to your success, that's where I think your portion's going. that starts with employees. I wrote a little book a few years ago about branding and the first chapter is all about employees, because if your employees don't understand what you're really about, if they can't talk about it in a way that gets other people excited, then. Wow. You're walking away from a whole lot of great connections, a whole lot of great energy, a whole lot of great information because communication is two ways. But, but, so, so it's important that everybody understands the message for consistency. But also, so they can do their jobs better so they can feel more connected to the organization. So that if you're a volunteer, you can't stop talking about it. And more importantly, you can't stop talking about it correctly. And if you don't have that focus on messaging in the very beginning, people are going to go out, go out, about in their daily lives. And they're going to say whatever they think is right. And sometimes it is, but a lot of the times it's not. So that's why messaging is so important that everyone has to understand it and everyone has to feel it. They have to really feel it and get excited about it.
Carol: Yeah. Oftentimes you think about board members or board members are, are really, encouraged to be ambassadors for the organization, but you make a great point about all those people who are working there. All the folks who are volunteering, it may not be at the board level. It may be in a lot of different aspects of the organization. but any of those folks, any of those stakeholders only kind of, yeah. It sees the elephant from whatever position they're in. Right. So they may just get a bit of the puzzle and not the whole thing. How do you help organizations go about that and get everyone on message?
Doug: Well, the first, the first way to do that is involve them, involve everyone in the development of the message or if it's not development and it, at least it's the. fine tuning or validate or validation of the message. So we have a process that is really research heavy. We focus a lot on research, both qualitative and quantitative, and you bring people into that process to make them feel heard because they do need to be heard. And you're, if you don't. Get input from all the people most important to you, six successes then, wow. You're not doing your job, right? not, I'm sorry to be blunt, but that's just the way it is. You've got to get everyone involved and just that first step does help build that momentum and build that excitement. And then the end product, ideally. We'll have some reflection of what all of those folks have said and input and input, obviously you're not going to just automatically do or say whatever everybody says, but it's, it's the totality of everything they say. So if you do it right, they're going to see a little bit of themselves in there. They're going to see a little bit about the part of the organization that, that they, no. when I was working in the for-profit sector and that's the other reason just, not to be completely stream of consciousness, but that's the other reason that I like what I'm doing now, because when I was working in the for-profit sector, I got a ton of great experience that the nonprofit sector isn't seen there's approaches in this way, just think about that really can benefit the non-profit sector. So I'm, I'm excited to share that where it's appropriate for other organizations, but where I was going before I interrupted myself, right. Where it was, where I was going was that I had a client when I was working with for-profit companies. And he said to me, if I asked every one of my partners, what we do. Every one of them would come up with a different description. And I worked with Harvard medical school and one of their divisions and their executive director had the exact same problem. All the leaders of her. Programs would only talk about the entirety in the perspective of what they did for it, never in how that all adds up to be the organization's true message. So if you get people involved and get them to see how they connect to the greater picture, the greater mission, then they're going to be all that much more excited to be part of it.
Carol: And that that process of research has a very similar to, when you were starting out with a strategic plan. And, the other thing that that brings to mind is that. There's the input process and coming to some conclusion around what are your strategic messages, but through that process, you're also shifting people's perspective and almost going through an education process with them as they talk to other people in the organization and see, see the other sides of things. And then how does it, as you're saying, add up to the total?
Doug: Right. Right. And, and that totality that if you want to call it your mission, you want to call it your why statement, whatever you want to call it, that brings people together and that can actually help, come to life in many other ways. So for example, sometimes there's a lot less bickering in an organization because everyone understands, okay, what they're really there to accomplish. They may all have different approaches to get the organization. There are more different contributions. But they all agree on the end goal and a lot of organizations aren't operating with that. They're just operating little silos, because they think it's more efficient or it's just really, it's just really icky to have to talk to somebody and, and really hear them out and feel what they're saying. And when you just want to focus on your own stuff, but, yeah, it's the mission. And, given the name of your podcast, mission impact, it's got to be the mission, it's gotta be what drives you and your mission’s gotta be what drives your message too.
Carol: So oftentimes, an organization's messaging doesn't keep up with how they've evolved. why don't you say this happens and, and how, how can you kind of, what, how can, what can organizations do to make sure that those two things match.
Doug: Oh, gosh. Yeah. This is something that everybody struggles with from time to time. And there are three main reasons. I see why organizations miss messages that fall out of line. The first is we forget what we know that nobody else knows, and we do our jobs day in and day out. We live, breathe them. Think about them, wake up in the middle of night, thinking about them. And that's what makes us really good at it. But what we all do. Forget that not everybody has that level of detail. And so sometimes we go about talking about what we do as if we're explaining a Netflix show, season three, episode 12, to someone who's only seen season one, episode two.
And so, we forget what we know and nobody else does. So that's the first one. The second one is that we all have to change a little bit here and there. I mean, life comes at us and throws us things that we have to adapt to, global pandemic, anyone, so a little change here and a little change. There is probably not that bad and something you need to do, but your message probably doesn't change a lot. Right. And then the third reason I see is what I call the squeaky wheel syndrome, especially with organizations that are lean and are running, all hands on deck. These squeaky wheels come up and you have to pay attention to them, but sometimes it's at the expense of the entire machine. So what that leads to is over time, sometimes convoluted. confusing and just basically inaccurate message because you've been going slightly different direction, all of a sudden, and then bam, your message hasn't changed and it's still pointing backwards. So those are the three reasons. I think that the organization's message gets out of sync here.
Carol: Yeah. And that makes sense. And as you're talking about those different silos of people, not knowing if they've forgotten what they're doing. So in the details of, episode 22, season three, and they forget the whole long storyline, it seems to me that processes like you lead groups through and, and the work that I do where we're there doing strategic planning and kind of, again, always taking a step back, bringing a larger group of people. Cross-functional groups of people together to think through these things. It helps people reconnect with the why of the organization, whether it's through messaging, whether it's through setting priorities. yeah. It helps them get a better understanding of what everybody does in an organization, oftentimes I'll have board members who've just started and they think, well, I can't contribute anything to this strategic planning process or a messaging process, but they do contribute something and that. One, they're bringing a new perspective and to the whole process they're going to, they're going to be so much further up to speed on the organization than if they had gone to an equivalent number of board meetings. So there's, there's all sorts of other benefits from these processes than just the product at the end. Right? The ripple effects in the organization.
Doug: Right. And one of the things that I think is one of those benefits is focus. So when you step back and really think about your messaging framework, what are the things that we are known for, or want to be known for? What are the things that we contribute to the world that nobody else does exactly the same way? And if you come up with three to four of those, and a new idea comes along, someone says, oh, we should totally do this. Or totally do like adopt a highway program like we do, but for, for, but for rabbits, then you say, okay, well, does that fit into any of the predetermined categories of what we've claimed we do best? And if it doesn't, then you don't do it. And that helps. That helps you stay focused. So you put a line in the sand and say, okay, this is who we are. This is what we do. This is how we talk about it. And anything else. You just have to politely say, sorry, we can't do that. Or, an obviously better option would be to point them to someone who does, not just leave them, leave them hanging, but help them somehow. But don't take that on if it's not who you are.
Carol: So what are some ways that organizations, what are some steps that they can take to get clear about their messaging?
Doug: Yeah. First is, as I alluded to earlier, to do some research. You got to ask questions, you gotta ask questions. All the people who are important to your success. Again, your employees, your volunteers, the people you serve, the people who fund you, the people who used to be on your board and are on your board, or, obviously not everyone, but you have to have a reputation or a representation from everybody that has some sort of a stake or something. A point of view that has value. You have to ask the questions and some of them have to be tough, you know? Do you think, do you have confidence in the executive director? Do you think the organization is prepared to meet the needs of the community in five years? do you think they do the work better than, and then list in some other organizations? So you have to do that work. You have to understand. And the other thing that a lot of organizations don't do that I think is really important is. Take a look at their competitors. And when I say competitors, I know a lot of people go competitors though. We don't have those that's for profit, but no you're competing for the time, talent and treasures of a whole lot of other folks. So, if who else, who else is going to. foundation and applying for the same grant you are, who else is looking for individual donors in say the art space, if that's where you're in or social justice space. So that's where you're in. So you've got to look at what they're doing, what they're saying, and then find a way to authentically position yourselves relevant or relative rather to those other voices, because those voices are out there and you are competing with them before people's time, talent.
Carol: Yeah. And I think people only think about competitors as those direct ones. So an arts organization to an arts organization. And, but if you're a local, a local organization, you're competing with all the organizations that are trying to get donor donations from local folks. So sometimes you have to think kind of, there may not be some, someone who does exactly what you do in your locality, but your, that competition may be maybe slightly.
Doug: Right. And it goes back to your episode, it goes back to thinking about those people who are most important to your success. You got to get in their heads, who is it that they work with? So if you are talking to corporate foundations or you are talking to some sort of a major donor, who else are they supporting? You've got to get a sense of where their attention spans are. Pointing and then thinking about how you fit into that. And it's gotta be authentic as I, as I suggest, is it can't you just can't, you can't be that car salesman. That is all things to all people. You've got to find your authentic voice and speak that in a way that connects with those people in a way that everyone else doesn't.
Carol: So what gets in the way?
Doug: What gets in the way? Well, like I said, just the day-to-day work, people are busy, especially at not-for-profits because they tend to have very lean staffs and sometimes they tend to not sometimes, and they tend to work with some, some really life and death situations. And so if you have to. Getting people into, housing for the, for the night versus, having a conversation with people that might donate, it's, you, you gotta, you gotta balance. And so the day to day really gets in trouble, gets you in trouble sometimes, but you've got to find that balance. That's just part of the job. I had a boss that used to, she used to always say to us, put on your big boy pants and do it. And, Gender aside. I just liked the image of that. But, anyway, that's part of the job and you've gotta stay. You gotta, you gotta do everything. unfortunately, so, just the day to day really does it. The other thing is it's not. Fun necessarily the pre-work, it's almost like some people have fashioned it like going into therapy and who wants to do that? and I, people joke that I'm some, sometimes I'm a therapist, which I am so not because I'm so not qualified, but I asked a lot of questions and I listened. So, I guess there is a parallel. But it's not always fun to really do that soul searching, even if it's not about you personally, but it's about the organization that you love and breathe that you are, it's so important to you. That soul searching can be uncomfortable. And then of course, change is uncomfortable too, for a lot of people, if they don't know. If they're not initiating it like you and I have had conversations and you brought up a great point that a change is great for the people who are initiating it. It's everybody else that gets, gets a little weirded out about it. So, those are some of the reasons, those are some of the things that get in the way. I think of people staying on top of their message and really embracing it and using it as a way to further their work.
Carol: And I love your point about, especially at organizations that are in direct service where, whether they get food to people or housing or all the things, that day, the immediate needs that are right on their doorstep, they need to deal with them. And I guess, as an and other organizations, That are working on issues that can feel like that too, even though they may not have the one person at their doorstep. and yeah, if you can take the perspective of. We're going to do a better job of serving all those people. If we're able to connect with other people who will support us, and, and not have it be a competitive, a competitive thing within the organization of, of competing priorities to say that, no, we need to do both because, that little bit of time that we're taking or that amount of time that we're taking to get clear about all these things is going to serve us in the long run. It may be that. See that, that immediate gratification of helping somebody right there. But over time, it will, it will help them help a greater number of people.
Doug: Okay. It's that, it's another variation on that, that classic, river, metaphor, right. If you're busy pulling people out of the river. One after another is to keep them from drowning. You don't have time to go upstream, downstream, upstream, and figure out why these people are getting in the river in the first place. So it's just another version of that, of that middle.
Carol: Absolutely. So on every episode, I like to play a game where I ask one random icebreaker question. So one for you is what is something you think everybody should do at least in their lives?
Doug: Oh gosh, that's easy. And I say this all the time and that is. Get into some therapy, talk to a therapist. Oh my God, you have no, you don't, you don't. And nor should you be in therapy forever in my humble opinion, but again, what do I know? But, oh my gosh, our world is so complicated and the pressures that we put ourselves in, the world changes so fast and our parents always do the best they can, but you know what. That doesn't mean that everything was right. So you get to talk to somebody else once in a while, at least once and just help them, help them, help them, help you sort things out in your head, so that you can get a better grip on how to be your best self and how to live your best.
Carol: absolutely. I've often joked with my daughter. I was like, well, I'm just, I'm just helping out your future therapist. Well, what are you excited about? What's coming up next for you and emerging in your work.
Doug: Yeah, what's exciting. Well, I'm just excited, excited rather that we are very slowly, more slowly than we should, but more slowly getting a hold of the pandemic and starting to move forward and at least starting to feel more of a comfort level with it. So I think, so we're talking now in August. I don't know when you're going to when this will air, but in August we're I think we're, you've got the Delta variant going on, but I think that people are. Racing themselves for another fall or winter, but it's not going to be as. Awful as it had been. And so I'm looking forward to ideally not having that happen, but if, even if it does, I think it's going to be better than 2020, but I do see the world opening up. I'm really excited. I know this is probably inappropriate to go, get all political, but I'm really excited to see what's going to happen with the infrastructure bill that seems to be going on. I think there's some real, incredible opportunities that are going to come from that. And so I'm really eager to see what this is. Has, and how that benefits, the people that are doing the work that we support. Right? Cause it's not in a vacuthe infrastructure, isn't just something that's over there. The infrastructure is something that impacts everybody and how they do their jobs and how they service the people they serve and how, and the environment is a perfect example. so I'm really excited about that. And, am, in sending positive vibes to Washington that they don't screw it up and that it actually happens.
Carol: Absolutely. It's certainly long overdue. All right. Well, thank you so much. It was great having you on the podcast.
Doug: This is fun. I'll we should do it again. And you've been on mine and I appreciate your time on my podcast and, yeah, happy to do it anytime. All right. Thanks a lot. Thank you.
Carol: I appreciated what Doug said about stepping back and help people understand the bigger picture of the story of your nonprofit. It is too easy to start with all the details – as he says – assuming your audience is in the middle of the season that you have been bringing with you, instead of setting the scene and giving the big headline – the tagline that folks will be able to remember. Not getting lost in the weeds and the details. And how to connect with what the person you are speaking with cares about. Not to fundamentally change your mission – but to find that point of connection to help pull that person in and help them relate to what you are describing. Getting into their shoes and seeing it from their perspective. Thank you for listening to this episode. I really appreciate the time you spend with me and my guests. You can find out how to connect with Doug as well as any links and resources mentioned during the show in the show notes at missionimpactpodcast.com/shownotes. I want to thank Nora Strauss-Riggs for her support in editing and production as well as April Koester of 100 Ninjas for her production support. If you enjoyed the episode I would greatly appreciate it if you would share it with a colleague or friend. Send them a link to the episode - We appreciate you helping us get the word out.
In episode 33 of Mission: Impact, Carol, her cohost, Peter Cruz, and their guest, Stephen Graves discuss diversity equity and inclusion in the health care sector. This episode is a release of a podcast Carol planned to start with her son-in-law and has many transferrable ideas and concepts to the nonprofit sector. We talk about:
Guest bio: Stephen Graves
Born in South Carolina and raised in the black Baptist church, Stephen had an insatiable curiosity to understand the South’s nuanced history related to race, his place in that story as a black man, and how the Christian faith could be used as a tool to heal or a weapon to hurt. This curiosity set him on a personal exploration, which turned into a professional journey as he pursued and earned a Master in Health Administration from the Medical University of South Carolina. Throughout his career in healthcare and in diversity, equity and inclusion, he has led initiatives centered on addressing health disparities, improving language access, and increasing cultural humility among teams. He has been fortunate to collaborate with healthcare providers, faith leaders, high school and college students, and business leaders in helping them to create welcoming and inclusive cultures where all can thrive.
Cultural humility: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SaSHLbS1V4w
Tuskegee Study: https://www.socialworker.com/feature-articles/ethics-articles/The_Tuskegee_Syphilis_Study_and_Its_Implications_for_the_21st_Century/
Racial biases about Black people and pain: https://www.aamc.org/news-insights/how-we-fail-black-patients-pain
Stephen Graves: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sggraves/
All In Consulting: https://www.allinconsulting.co/
Peter Cruz: https://www.linkedin.com/in/peterjcruz/
Peter Cruz: Hey, everyone. Welcome to culture. Fit the podcast where we do our best to answer your equity inclusion questions. That'll help you navigate the professional landscape, especially when you are not a culture fit. Peter Cruz
Carol Hamilton: and I'm Carol Hamilton. And today on the podcast, we're going to be talking to Steven Graves and looking at diversity equity inclusion in the healthcare practice.
Peter: It's a great conversation and I hope you enjoyed the episode.
Stephen Graves: Hey Carol,
Peter: How are you doing Carol?
Carol: How are you doing Peter?
Peter: I'm doing all right. I had a good night's sleep because it's like 16 degrees over here. And when it's really cold, you just sleep real hard. So I didn't move. Not one time. So I'm well rested and well-prepared for today.
Carol: Today we do have a guest. Our guest is Steven Graves. How are you doing Steven?
Stephen: Good. Glad to be here.
Peter: Could you provide some background information on yourself?
Stephen: Yeah. I'm Stephen Graves. I'm a native of a small town in South Carolina, upstate South Carolina called Greenville. In between Greenville and Columbia I started in the healthcare profession dating back to when I was in college interning at a disabilities and special needs facility. Also pursue my master's at the medical university of South Carolina down in Charleston, South Carolina. So I had to have about a decade of experience in the medical field. And just really glad to be here today and have a conversation with you all
Peter: glad to have you for sure. I mean, you're our inaugural guests, so without you, the show actually wouldn't be possible.
Stephen: Oh, wow. That is a privilege and an honor pressure too.
Carol: No, no pressure at all. And Steven, I think, as you've been in that field, you've also stepped into specializing more closely in diversity, equity and inclusion. Is that correct? Is that right?
Stephen: Yes. Yeah. I've been doing the diversity equity and inclusion work. Like I said for the last 10 years, I really opened my eyes during my time at the medical university of South Carolina working with a limited English professor. In communities trying to make sure that they have access to translators interpreters, and really just making sure that those services meet and exceed their expectations to improve the patient experience. I was really blessed and honored to be around some great folks, great mentors at the MUFC community. And it just really opened my eyes to the disparities that are in healthcare, in the medical community and understanding how we can. Address those to have a more equitable society and make sure that everybody's living to their full potential as far as their physical and mental health is concerned.
Peter: Hmm. Great. And this is coming this first, like my question, like it's coming from a place of ignorance because I don't know anyone else who works in the medical field. Especially in diversity equity inclusion. Is there, what are, where are things that are similar? From the medical field in DEI that are, that exist in nonprofit or corporate spaces. And then if there's anything that's unique to there, can you like to shine some light on those?
Stephen: Yeah, that's a good question. I think the similarities are that in order for shifts to be made in order for real change, transformational change to happen. You've got to have senior leadership commitment. Whoever is at the top of the organization has the most power. They have the most influence. Oftentimes they can control where energy is being in place, where resources are being placed. So the one similarity, the main similarity is really around that senior leadership commitment piece. I think another similarity is also around being. Data and evidence-based driven, right? So a lot of times the mistake that people make in this particular aspect of diversity equity inclusion is because there's such an emotional tie and pull to it with feelings and it can trigger a lot of people. People don't take a logical, maybe rational and evidence-based approach. And I think whether you're in the nonprofit space, whether you're in the corporate America space, whether you're healthcare like myself, You still need to be driven by data, right? Collecting what we call real data, race, ethnicity, and language, data, collecting sexual orientation and gender identity data. So that's another similarity. And in terms of collecting that data, and then a third similarity would be around using that data. To sit and drive real goals in terms of what are going to be some realistic goals that we can measure and they can help us chart our path forward. I would say the main difference in healthcare is that you are literally talking about life and death, right? Yeah. A lot of people in other spaces can say, okay, well, this is nice to have. But if you don't have the right type of language, access programming in place, or an effective language access program, it can literally be a life or death situation. There can be some dire consequences if you're not focusing on equitable outcomes, I would say that would be the biggest difference when it comes to working in this space in healthcare lands versus any other field.
Peter: Thank you. I think that last bit does stand out for me, it being about life or death. I think that probably because my professional experience is all in nonprofit, like youth focused, youth empowerment and because it doesn't have to do with life or death, it provides that opportunity to. Second guests like to prolong and like to require more patients because the senior leaders have the option to just like, maybe test it a little bit, but then if it doesn't feel like it will succeed. And, but does that mean that things, decisions come quicker in, in, in, in the middle of the profession?
Carol: The huge organizations that you're dealing with as well. I mean, huge systems with so many people and that, that, that makes the complexity even, even more so.
Stephen: Exactly right. When you're talking about a large health system, I've worked in health systems ranging from 8,000 employees to 25,000 employees. So it takes a long time to normalize this across the landscape. If you will, when it comes to that large healthcare. There is a higher sense of urgency, I would say right now, based on the events that happened last year, I think America's having a reawakening and that's happening in the medical field as well. Thinking about the COVID disparities related to the pandemic black and brown communities being hit harder than other communities of color and white communities. When you're thinking about that, the sense of urgency has elevated recently, those same barriers when it comes to that bureaucratic nature of the hierarchy is still there. And that's unfortunate, but I think, again, I'm hopeful and optimistic that right now there's going to be a shift that happens as a result of occurrence.
Carol: And I can imagine that that sense of crisis, actually, it could be helpful and it could also be a hindrance of, oh, we've just got to focus on COVID right now. We can't focus on those, those other things going unquote. And I imagine that plays out as well.
Stephen: It does, it does. And, me being able to prioritize the advice that I would give to leaders when it comes to that resistance, right. In terms of saying, okay, we got to put this off because there's other priorities saying, Hey, these are priorities within priorities. Right? So wherever the conversation is, whether it's around COVID, whether it's around your EHR, electronic health care, right. There's going to be a lens of diversity, equity and inclusion within all of those priorities. Maybe you're building and expanding your practices, expanding a wing, getting your hospital. You've got to have some consideration for, okay, how are we going to make this accessible, right, for a person with disability? How are we going to make sure that language signage is translated in a way that folks who don't speak English as a first language can understand? So these things are going to be embedded, right? Any initiative, any project that hospital organizations are going to be working on. And that's the case that I always try to make when it comes to prioritizing this work.
Carol: And you mentioned data and evidence driven. Can you give us an example of how that's been helpful and bringing that perspective or bringing that evidence to the team.
Stephen: Yeah. So a lot of the organizations that I've had the pleasure to work inside of and consult with survey, right? So doing engagement surveys and really asking some core questions around inclusivity and inclusion saying, do you feel respected? In the walls, these hospitals, do you feel there are patients who are racial, racially, diverse, ethnically diverse, linguistically diverse. Do you feel like they're being respected, being treated the same, that data can provide a baseline and it can really be useful and valuable to getting you some really great information that you can build off of. So that's one part of the data collection that I'm referring to. Another aspect is looking at patient experience scores, right? So this is something we all can relate to, whether you're. Inside of the healthcare system, or you are receiving services as a patient, everybody can either deliver, how their experience was, or we're going to hear how the experience was on our end as healthcare providers. That data can be stratified sorted by race, by ethnicity, by language, by age or all of these different demographic factors. And you can realize contrast, and you can see those contrasts and that data. If again, if the organization's willing to make that commitment, to look at their data differently, to see, okay, there's a difference because different, yeah, this exists and that takes a little bit of commitment and it takes a little bit of discomfort to look at that and say, White patients are having a much better experience when they're interacting with their nurse at bedside than a black patient is. So those that, that type of data will really help tell a story and validate for the, the nonbelievers, if you will, this work is so important.
Peter: Speaking of non-believers. One, one question that we were going to ask you is the anti-vaxxer community. How has that, especially over the past year during COVID, how has that impacted I guess the increase of people coming into the hospital. And is there a community that exists within the staff? The medical professionals that are also anti-vaxxers.
Stephen: Yeah. I would say that when it comes to anti-vaxxers and those who may be a little bit reluctant to take the backseat, it depends on the communities that you're talking about. Right. So we're talking about black and brown communities. There is an understandable and rightful way of having a district. Yeah, the medical community, right, because of history and because of what we've seen, not only in the healthcare space, but in all of our institutions across America. So the medical community as providers and professionals who have done significant harm over the last, however, a hundred, many years to validate those concerns and those anti-vaxxers, if you will. Yes, whether it's a staff member of color, whether it's a patient of color, I've seen it on both ends. And what part of the work that the medical community has to do is to regain trust of those communities by engaging more effectively and more creatively to make sure that, Hey, we are here for your best interests at hand and alleviating those concerns. But yes, there's definitely. That reluctance piece when it comes to the backs of nations, whether it's, staff members, black staff members of color, or folks, out in the community. Yeah.
Carol: And can you say more, a little bit more about that history of the, that really drove that distrust?
Stephen: Yeah. So I would say, dating back, you can Google the Tuskegee experiments, right? You can think about how women of color are right. Who were pregnant or how they've been treated. So there's a deep history and examples in terms of that level of distrust. And I would say going back to that language access piece, there are some, really Keystone cases in terms of capstones that this suggests okay. One word was mistranslated, right? One word was misinterpreted and it led to a misdiagnosis. It led to the wrong arm being amputated, the wrong leg being amputated. So there's several and numerous examples of that distrust that has been building over time.
Peter: Yeah. And I would also wonder with being that, I guess the white community is more of an individualistic community and people of color tend to be. You know more of a collective so to speak. And if one, one patient has a negative experience, it will already create the whole narrative for their entire community about whether or not they will even, if I'm not feeling well, whether or not I even go to the hospital because they mistreated my friend, they mistreated my mother, they mistreated whomever. Right. So that's that, yeah, that, that, that data that you mentioned earlier is so much more signal, like as equally as significant as it. About the historical context, I would say as well, right?
Stephen: Yeah. That data is current too. Right. So if you think about as recent as five years ago, I won't say the school, but there was a medical school and the students, the white medical residents actually thought that blue, black people's blood coagulated. And they literally thought that black people's skin was thicker and that led to a misdiagnosis and mismanagement of pain and, and under-valuing pain management and prescribing for pain. So the data most currently, and most recently it provides more than enough evidence to focus on communities of color and ensure they have equitable care. Yeah, that data piece is huge.
Peter: I'm looking, you mentioned this, but looking at the past year what we were, we've spoken a little bit about the experience for the patients or potential patients or the community for the medical professionals. How has that last year been? In regards to DEI being that there was like an increased sense of it.
Stephen: Yeah, depending on the communities, right. That you're speaking of within the medical community. Right? So the black and brown professionals in the medical field who I've had the opportunity and privilege to work around, they're saying, okay, well it's about time, right? It's about time, that we're having these conversations, right. It's long overdue. So that's by and large, the sentiment that I've heard from communities of color, when it comes to the white profession. There are some who they're on board, right? How can I be an ally? How can I do better as a provider to better serve my patient? But then of course you have those who are saying, okay, we're just one race. We're the human race, right. Or I'm colorblind. I don't see color, right. And you're thinking to yourself, okay, that's well intentioned. There's some blind spots there. Right. And then, Very far end of the spectrum. you have those folks who have been in the medical field for years, right? Maybe 30, 40 years. They just were not trained this way. Right. They didn't, they weren't trained to have any sort of cultural humility when thinking about the patients, the diverse patients that they're serving. So they have a mindset in place that they develop over time and then, develop a sense of their training that they really have to think through and say, okay, what, what do I need to uncover? What can I start getting curious about to be a better provider? Yes, definitely a range across the spectrum in terms of the response to the DEI efforts and the need for DEI efforts.
Peter: Hmm. I have just one more question. Really Carol, do you have any other questions right now? Okay, with all you've experienced the past four years, right. With administration, do court like that, connected with the pandemic and how people have interacted with Medicare and the medical systems. Are there things that you are optimistic about with the change of administration in regards to the medical profession? Cause I know that people think it's a very, it's a clean slate. A new president. We're all good. Now we got the right guy in office. It's no worries. Like we're all good. Right? We're all family. I'm colorblind and we love each other now again is that, is there any optimism moving forward? Any like short-term goals or long-term goals?
Stephen: I’m optimistic about, from what I've heard from the new administration that has entered is that they are reliable. They are going back to that data-driven evidence-based piece, or they're not saying things that may not be true or may not be validated with data. So I'm looking forward to hearing facts from scientists. Medical experts. And if they don't know the answer to something, I don't know the answer rather than making something up or forecasting something that's not true. Right. And not to get too much into my learning series, but I'm looking forward to not being told to inject our stills with Clorox or other, you know substances that may not, that would probably be harmful to us. So I'm looking forward to that. I'm also optimistic about the focus on disparities. Right? So I think one of the things that I saw coming out of this new administration is a task force. That's going to be developed for health disparities, health equity, especially, during the as we continue to navigate COVID right. So I'm optimistic that there's going to be a renewed focus on communities of color, of being a black man myself. I think that that's critically important. So there's a lot to be optimistic about and, just on a general level, I mean, I'm just looking forward to not being as exhausted. Right. So, and I think that goes for everybody, right? No matter what party you support, I think, everybody can attest to the last four years that it was just a level of exhaustion, whether you were defending the former administration or whether you were radically opposed to the former administration. Well, we can all agree to his bit. It will just be a lower temperature if you will, when it comes to what's happening in DC and how it's affecting our world.
Peter: Yeah, it is, it is, it is wild to think that facts were political.
Carol: We don't have to defend facts as a partisan issue. Oh my goodness. Yeah. Yeah. But I think, as you said, it's a long overdue this, this reckoning that we're having. And as. as groups come together and start really digging into the data that's there. And many people have already researched these things, but bringing it all together into light and to light to the general public through the press, I think it should hopefully move things along.
Stephen: Yeah, that's that, that, that is, I'm definitely hopeful. again, with the information, I think that, the. No, not having so much misinformation floating around. I think that'll definitely go a long way.
Carol: All right. Well, yeah. Thank you so much.
Stephen: All right. Yeah, thank y'all for having me. And I was glad to chat with you all today.
Peter: Thank you, Stevie. Hopefully we'll have you back at some other point, looking forward
Stephen: to that. Thank you. Yeah, that'd be fun.
Carol: So I was particularly struck by his CA our conversation about the mistrust of the medical profession and, and you named folks anti-vaxxers, which I often think of as, as white people who are afraid of vaccinations for their children, because of conspiracy theories around autism and, and lots of misinformation there. I think that history is something that I think a lot of white people are not aware of. And yeah, it's steep and it's going to take a long time to correct.
Peter: Yeah. And hopefully we're on being that, as we mentioned, that facts are now political. Like, I hope that that starts to deteriorate at some point soon so that this will, less of them are no longer political facts and are no longer political and the appropriate people are vaccinated appropriately, appropriately. I think a part that stood out to me was the idea of, and it's something that's open-ended is how do we regain the trust of those communities that have been negatively impacted? I feel like that exists everywhere in every single organization, nonprofit or corporate. How, how do you make sure that people are open and are receptive. That, that seems to be like an ongoing conversation and ongoing dilemma because of how deeply rooted and systematic our racism is or sexism or homophobia is and how ingrained that is and in our culture. So I feel like we'll, we'll probably touch on that in every single episode.
Carol: Yeah. And I don't think it's even real. Right. It's it's it starts to. Yeah. Trust.
Peter: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Well I think that's it for this week's episode. So if you'd like us to attempt to answer one of your diversity equity, inclusion, questions, or scenarios for us and our guests, please feel free to send those to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carol: Look forward to seeing those emails. So culturefitpod.gmail.com.
Peter: Yeah. One of those, try them. Try both of them. Somebody. All right, we'll see you next time. All right.
Carol: Thank you so much. See, talk to you soon.
In episode 32 of Mission: Impact, some of the topics that Carol and her guest, Don Tebbe discussed include:
Guest Information: Don Tebbe is an organizational planning consultant and one of America’s most experienced advisors on nonprofit CEO transition and leadership succession. He experienced, first-hand, the challenges of sustaining an organization and navigating leadership succession as a former nonprofit executive director and five-time interim CEO. Since 1993, he’s helped hundreds of nonprofit leaders plan for and manage turnover in their chief executive positions. Don was one of the national thought leaders involved in an Annie E. Casey Foundation-sponsored project to develop better practices for nonprofit leadership succession. Many of the concepts and practices used by succession practitioners today originated with the Casey project. He is the author of Chief Executive Transitions: How to Hire & Support a Nonprofit CEO and The Nonprofit CEO Succession Roadmap: Your Guide for the Journey to Life’s Next Chapter.
Important Guest Links:
Carol Hamilton: Welcome Don. Welcome to the podcast.
Don Tebbe: Thanks Carol. I'm excited to be here. Have this chat with you and.
Carol: Absolutely. And I always like to start out and I know you've had a very long career. So this made this, this, the answer to this question may have changed over time, but what really drew you to the work that you do? What motivates you and what would you describe as your, why?
Don: I see you sent me that question in advance and I had really pondered that because I think it's been more of a feeling than an explicit calling. In fact, I did some research for one of my books on callings and I am trying to figure out why I was attracted to this, to this nonprofit sector work. But it just seemed like a great place to really do work that's meaningful. And that's one of the things I discovered in doing the research on callings is that everybody has this innate desire for a meaningful life. And I couldn't think of any, I tried business, I tried government. But I couldn't think of any place else where you could have a much more meaningful life than the nonprofit world.
Carol: Yeah. I've definitely found that as well. I mean, it's meaningful in the work that you're doing, but I also find it attracts other good people. And so I enjoy it. I often really enjoy my colleagues and enjoy their thoughtfulness and their sense of calm.
Don: Yeah, I think for me, the perfect place was to move in. In the consulting arena. I had been an executive director and deputy director for about 10 years before I moved into consulting in 1993. And I just really, I just fell in love with it. the opportunity to work with great people to work with them at a very meaningful moment when they're particularly, if they're. Maybe not necessarily struggling, but questioning, like when we're doing planning work. And it also gave me a lot of flexibility to really double down on, on the missions that I really care about without having the, the daily grind of, of being an executive, like developmental disabilities, like food security, like housing like, child services.
Carol: Yeah. Getting to contribute to all of those different things rather than having to pick one, one major passion. Yeah. So you, as you said, you've had a long career in the sector ranging over a number of different areas and, including executive search and really pioneering, how many transition specialists approach executive search today? I think actually. You're one of the people who's been quoted multiple times on this podcast over the past year. So kudos for that. And one thing that I especially appreciated about how you address this issue is that you address it from both sides, from the point of view of the board and the organization, but then also the point of view of a long term executive director or the founder. In your book the nonprofit CEO succession roadmap. I'm your guide for the journey to life's next chapter? Why was it important for you to address the exiting executive director directly?
Don: Well, it can't really came out of work that Tom Adamson I did when we were partners in a firm called transition guides. Tom and I met when he was leading a project for the Annie Casey foundation that was looking at the question of how we can have better transitions in the nonprofit world. Invited a small group of practitioners when myself included at the time I was the interim executive director of the interim ministry network. So Tom and I put together this program a two day retreat called next steps. Particularly targeting founders and long term executive directors. Cause it was, yourself, those are some of them. Can be some of the most problematic transitions out there. And, I think it's just, it's, it's, it's, it's a space where governance, executive leadership and strategy all come together in, in one moment. And so I think it's a great opportunity to really address all three of those, those prongs also the organizational capacity. So we started off with, we were focused on executive transitions in, came up with the executive transition management model, all that, and what we realized that we needed to be working with organizations. Earlier, before they hit that moment of transition. So that led us into the succession planning work. And then in early two thousands, I was looking at the, I do these deep dives every few years. And the deep dive I was doing then was around really organizational vitality. I did 140 CEO transitions in my career and managed 104 of them. And some organizations come to you in all sorts of conditions. There's the high performing organizations. There's the low performing organizations. There's the organism. They are firing their executive director. I really wanted to take a look at and see what characters, what are the characteristics of these high valleys? Tell the organization, those organizations where you walk in the front door and you can just feel it. You can feel the energy, the excitement, the commitment, the impact I am w what's what was going on in those organizations that I came away from. I did literature review and some case study research and came up with these three tiers, that base level there's organizational stability, the, the vital signs that are okay. It's not at risk, it's not in the intensive care ward. The next level up was what I would call Sustainability. And then, layering on top of that. What is vitality? And so you really have to, I think you have to address both the executive and, and work leadership on that board higher. So the executive, the board, is responsible for shepherding the mission and shepherding him. And obviously the executive is their key partner in driving that impact. So I think it's terribly important to address both. But we found though with these retreats we had about, I think we had about 600 alumni when I left transition guides. We would do it a couple times a year, small groups, about 25 to 30 executives. It may, when I did interviews with. So folks that are with our alumni, what I found was that just really, They, they, they were our point of entry into the organization and, and, the opportunity to then work, with a board. So I think also my belief is that the executive really should initiate the succession process. And rather than the board initiating it on their behalf. So I think, it's, it's, it's. It's just like in a situation with a nonprofit; their key partners need to be working with both of them.
Carol: What would you say is important for exiting executive directors to realize about the transition?
Don: Well, probably the thing that I heard the most and was most surprising is to a person for these interviews, they. They were shocked and surprised by how emotional the process was for them. That was something that really caught them off guard. So we really tried to make sure that they understood that in, in, in this retreat process. So I think that's, I think that's one thing that's a surprising thing, but I think in terms of the points that I would make with executives is you probably can't start too early. We were focusing on primarily trying to get to people for three to four to five years ahead of their Parker, I'm thinking of one particular instance this executive was a household name and, she was not just the, the leader of this nonprofit. She was a leader of a whole movement and she was, that's, that's a pretty hard person to replace. So we actually, I started talking with her 10 years before she left and I don't, I don't think that was the cause, That there needed to be some capacity building around the movement and not just inside her for her organization. So, and that's an extreme case, but usually I'd say three to four years, it's not too early. because particularly if it's founder or long-term executive, cause there may need to be some capacity building needs to take place in the organization. They baby, They grew into the role as the organization grew up around them. Right. And so there may be, they may be covering for somebody, they are, there may be a hole in their operation or there may be somebody that they'd been making do with in, in the organization. Also, there may be a board that's overly dependent on them and really needs to do some board building work to make sure that there's a, I would call. The board's gone through a reformation process and it's not a friend's a founder board any longer, it's a fully functioning, or that has a, it has a sense of itself independent of the founder. And so I think that you just can't start too early. And I think the third point that I would make is that a lot of times executives are confused about their role in, in the transition process and the succession process. It's to me, there's no ambiguity, you got three jobs. Job number one, lead the organization through the transition, of course, but understand that that role is going to evolve as your departure date draws closer. Number two is to prepare yourself for that next chapter of life. Like if you're going to retire, have something magnetic, that's drawing you forward rather than a job that you're leaving. And job number three is to prepare the organization for the succession and transition process.
Carol: And you mentioned that often folks were caught off guard with how emotional the whole process was. What were some of the common things that folks experienced as they, as they move through? And what were some of the unhelpful behaviors that came out of that, that, that roller coaster, that emotional roller coaster.
Don: Yeah. I think it'd be a lot of it distributed by the executives personality. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld was at Yale university and wrote a book a few years back about the hero's farewell and he outlined four different characters for different profiles. There were the ambassadors, people that could leave the organization gracefully, or even have a continuing role with the organization. And, everything's going to be just fine. Governance. Who went on to other, big, big jobs and left the organization behind, so forth. And Oh, I forgot the other two right off the top of my head here, but the Monarch and the steward, right? Oh, that's right there. Exactly. Yeah. Well, steward was my year's term monarch, that you're going to be carried out feet first or X showing the door kicking and screaming. But my belief is that there's a fifth category out there. Another category out there is called stewards. And that's what I see most. In, in the nonprofit world, people that can, leave gracefully and but not necessarily have a continuing role with the organization science and courage to pardon executives, to think of themselves as stewards. And they're going to hand off the organization to the next sewer. So did that answer it quickly?
Carol: Yeah. Yeah. So what would you say you, you talked about the three tasks that are inherent in the job of leading an organization through the transition. What can executives do to help make the transition go more smoothly?
Don: Oh, gosh encouraging the board chair to pick good leadership for the succession process. And as I said, starting the succession process earlier, and I also, I've been listening to your interview. Liz Wolf and I take a little bit different tack about the idea of, of interim executives being the standard approach for an organization. Now that was the, that is the experience in, in many religious denominations, right? Place what's called a settled pastor until there's been an interim there for at least a year, so that there is that breathing room, that separation, but the challenge, and I brought that into discussions with the KC project and what we found. By comparing notes with compass points in our own practice, for a lot of organizations that just don't work for you, you've got fundraising relationships that you need handoff, or you've got P government contract relationships that you need to hand off and, have you. Having an interim in there and doing that handoff twice, just, just, just doesn't seem to work. And so that's one reason why we took a step back and said, let's start earlier, work intensively and encourage the executives to get some coaching in the process so that they're, they're dealing with their own stuff. About how the transition is going, because the job does evolve and, or, people can feel a sense of loss when decisions are deferred to the new executive and so forth.
Carol: Yeah. And one of them is that I'm not listening to the train. And so I totally lost my train of thought, wanted to follow up on, oh, I remember what it is now. One of the points that you made, which I thought was really key, was the scent, the recommendation to pick a date and stick with it, not to be going back and forth. Well, I thought that was a good idea, but really we've got one more project to do, one more project to do and kicking the can down the road. What, how, what impact have you seen that have on the rest of the organization? When, when. That executive isn't it from, and their plans and how they move forward?
Don: Yeah. One person comes to mind very clearly. I was coaching him on his departure and we were having coffee. About a month after our initial meeting, he then let out to me that he was rethinking his departure date and his long time, well seasoned deputy just up and quit and said, look, I'm done with this, you're, you're never going to leave this organization. I'm going to go do something else. I think I gave some notice, but what do I mean? It really upset the applecart. And I think I'd also feel whipsawed. Cause for the staff a departure particularly of a founder or long-term executives, this may be the only boss they've ever known. Right. and particularly to their long term staff members and it's unnerving for the staff. And so you don't want your best people to be, cause people. It's an unknown and nerving time men, particularly if you couple that with, The executive or the board being guarded about information. It can be a real stew for the staff and right, for people, you're some of your best people to look elsewhere because they're questioning them. The future with the organization again, and there's always questions anyway. we'll, we like the new executive, can we trust the board to pick the right person for the job? Are they going to bring in some, somebody that's going to bring in their own team and they want a gun we're going to clean house when we don't necessarily need to clean houses as a high-performing organization, all those things.
Carol: What are other mistakes that you've seen executive directors make as they're exiting?
Don: There's a touchy topic there. One of the points I try to make is you need to take responsibility. You need to take responsibility for your departure and your exit plan. And then I will try to clarify that that doesn't mean you surf the board's authority and try to force in your hand pick success or are on the one hand nor does it mean dumping everything in the board's lap. And saying, Hey, it's their, it's their problem. It's their job. I'm running the organization. It's finding that, that, that place where you can really be a good steward of this entire process without, without rush riding rough shots over the board and not dumping it all in their laps, which volunteer boards are. Oftentimes really pretty clueless about what's really needed in that, in that way.
Carol: Yeah, so helping them through. And that's where I think, bringing in external help because, if the person's a founder, it's unlikely that they've managed a transition or their own exit before in, in that case. And so may not know all the things that that could be helpful to, to pay attention to as they're going through that process.
Don: Yeah. I think the other thing is that I am paying a lot of tension, a lot of attention to the preparation for the hand. And that can be a great comfort to you, to your leadership team, to your staff. If they're helping to prepare the way for the new executive. In fact, that really is one of your roles as a departing executive is to prepare the way for your successor. And so getting staff engaged in that, whether it's paying the CEO's office. So rewinding here a little bit is, I think it's really important that executives pay attention to the, the preparation to receive and work effect for causation work effectively with the new executive and paying attention to the handoff. So preparation for the new executive. I think there's a, I think. Engaging the board in some con getting the board to engage in conversations about what governance relationship do they want with us new executive, you spent a long time, writing this profile, imagining what this new person going to be like, getting clear about, the priorities for the first 12 to 18 months of their tenure. Well, what relationship? Should you have, within an executive, particularly if you've got a founder or long-term executive leading staff preparation, getting the staff involved in preparing briefing materials for the new executive that it becomes part of that, the handoff, getting some bios together about what the team looks like that sort of. And then expecting that there might be a little bit of overlap between you in, in your successor and that's, that can be fair. Yeah. in small organizations, it may be a couple hours, a couple of days in a large organization. Like one of our clients was an international health charity that had, has. Offices are all around the world. So the current CEO stayed on and the new CEO came in and worked out a month, I think, going on listening tours, visiting all the facilities around the world as the CEO of. And so paying attention to how that, that handoff and making sure that the, the critical relationships get handed off that there's briefing materials for the new executive, that there's an opportunity to really get it's no the organization that they're taking over and and then, then, riding off handoff and ride off.
Carol: I love it. So at the end of each episode, I like to play a game where I ask one random icebreaker question. And so what's something that you believed earlier in your career that you think about differently now?
Don: Oh my gosh. Well, I think a hard lesson I learned as a, as an executive director was not to expect the board to spontaneously fundraise. Yeah. Do you mind if I go back to a point about that? Yeah, sure. Go ahead. Okay. Well, so one of the things back in the mid nineties I had a great opportunity working with organizations in Silicon valley based here, but worked out there almost a quarter of the time and. So I wrote a book for this and worked for the center for excellence and nonprofits in San Jose. It was started by Dean Martin. When he retired as a CEO of COO of Hewlett Packard, he was the board chair and he was on the Packard foundation board and a really great guy, a great relationship, and worked with him and bopped on Bob carton on the evolution of this organization. Seven years. So one of the things I did with them was do this report, looking at governance practices in highly effective nonprofits. It's really had a very formative relationship for me, our impact on me because I was fresh off a fairly new consultant at that time, fresh off the heels of, of Relationship with a board. And one of the things that really saw was that it really opened my eyes to that whole board executive relationship. And by the way, I loved Mary Highland's interview with you on that, on that point, Mary and I are old friends and what I came away with and it's really had a forum. Fo helped really from my approach to executive transitions and the importance of following through and having that onboarding process and having an intentional relationship building process with the board. What I saw in these organizations is what I came to call the board executive social contract, you in every work situation, we've got our literal contract. Maybe it's as simple as a job description, or maybe it is a formal written contract, but then we have, how do we live? And that's the social contract. And when I saw his organization's spine large, they were clear about four things. Number one, they were clear about the priorities that they were pursuing together as a board and an executive team. That might be what's in their strategic plan. It might be some developmental work with the organization. It might be exploring new ventures or something like that, but they were clear about their priorities that they were going to work on together. They were clear about their roles and responsibilities. And I know you've got an organizational development background, so this is going to make lots of sense. I'm sure. you're you got that separation of executive roles or board roles and responsibilities. How do you tie that together? Well, you tie that together with some sort of accountability mechanism, that thing, that relationship looks different in every organization, but. Every one of those seem to have those four characteristics to it. So that really made an impact on me. And so I brought that into the executive transition work to make sure that there's an intentional way of the board, an executive building that relationship and that there's a process, a guided process that they could actually go through.
Carol: Yeah. I had the chance to work with one organization that was going through that executive transition and worked with the group before, it wasn't part of the search process, but then came back afterwards to help the board and the new executive director have that exact conversation about what's important to us in terms of how we work together. How are we gonna, what are the ways that we're going to show up? What are the behaviors that we're going to demonstrate that are going to support? Working together in a collaborative, positive way. So, I had a chance to work with them on their strategic planning. And so then I was able to remind you, and these are the things you said you were going to do when you worked together. And none of them were, that they're all good things. People would come up with in terms of being respectful and communicating and collaborating, but I think being explicit about it and then coming back to it and reminding yourself and then thinking, so how are we doing on that? Are there other places where we could adjust and, and, and tweak it to make it better, can be really helpful.
Don: Yeah. And, and having been clear that that, that, that. The connecting mechanism, that evaluation mechanism, has an evolution to it, and should be multi-stage at least in the first year, because, what's the big question on the board? I often hire the right person. Right. And so you want it to, you want to have an intentional non-intrusive way of a non-intrusive way of, of. Yeah, getting that information, getting, getting that. Sure. And so, it might be the first 30 days, having a ha how's it going at conversation? Maybe the first quarter, that's a little bit more of a ha ha how are you, how are you feeling about, your. you're taking charge because there is a taking charge process that John Kabarro at Harvard documented a number of years ago. And so it's, rather than an executive, parachuting in and stepping into the role, it's oftentimes a ramping up process. And so understanding that and just being realistic about that evaluation process. So quarterly. First quarter. Half of the year and then, maybe the annual review after that, but thinking of it as an assurance mechanism and in being realistic about it, because the executives aren't there. They're coming into an organization, they may be confronting problems. There's oftentimes as, legacy issues that don't come up and don't get the cat's not out of the bag until the new executive is there. And so making sure that they're feeling well supported on that. And everybody's being realistic about this.
Carol: Yeah. And you've got all those lines of communication open, which is really key. And yeah, so we did that once, but it doesn't mean that it's done, right. It's not something you just checked off the list. It's something you'd come back to and what needs to be adjusted and how are, where, where are we now? And what else, what, what do we need to think of? So what, what, what are you excited about? What's coming up next for you. What's emerging and the work that you're doing now.
Don: Oh, wow. Just a bunch of things. I'm retooling a course that Susan Shaffer and I developed called going solar going big. It's of course for consultants. And so I'm doing some editing of that after it's been out there for a couple of years online. We do it in person. Yeah. Yeah, some are retooling that this sounds very nerdy, but I'm really excited about a series of books, discussions that I've been facilitating with a group of consultants, mostly alumni from our workshop. Last year we worked on productivity and the sugar we're going to work on communications and insights. And so doing that and just and really, really enjoying, my practice now is primarily focused on succession planning and organizational planning, and I'm developing a process that I call impact crafting, and I am working. I've worked with about five organizations now with that pilot, it can bring in a lot of the ideas from my executor transition work, I've looked at air free organizations, strategic plan and ask them how they, developed it and really discovered that a lot of organizations, th they, They think the board should do it. They think the staff shouldn't do it. sort of trying to bring that into sharp focus and also discovered in the transition work, a lot of organizations have broken business models and the board doesn't understand how the work really gets done, in the organization. So one of the pieces that I bring to an organization is really to clarify their impact statement beyond their vision, bring it down to a little bit more operational level, and then work with them to actually make. Yeah. Using a variation of the business model canvas to actually map how the work gets done, how they turn vision over here into impact over here. And so that's been really satisfying work and I think it brings a much more grounded feel to the. The planning process.
Carol: Well, we'll probably have to have you back on, to dig into that a little bit more because you love to use all the words that I like to use. So I want to get one, I like to open the door and see what's behind it, but thank you so much for coming on. It's been great talking to you.
Don: Thanks Carol. Great talking with you. Good luck on the podcast, loving the episodes thus far.
Carol: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
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